How Many Social Media Personalities Do I Need?
“Should I have a personal and a professional account? Should I keep them separate?” I get this question all the time. Or this: “I have many interests, wouldn’t I want to tweet them to different accounts so that people can choose to follow what they want?” My answer has been and will always be to have one account, and here are some reasons why:
Can you really separate? In this transparent social world, it’s getting harder and harder to separate the professional and personal. Since social emphasizes relationships, how can you expect to build professional relationship without transcending into personal? You will always have a stronger business relationship if you can relate to people as a human being.
Let passion drive you: In an ever-competitive professional world, the notion of passion is more important today than it’s ever been. People who are passionate about their jobs will win over those who aren’t. If your personal and professional passion don’t collide, then you should probably do something else. If you are passionate about all these parts of your life, why siphon them into separate accounts? That way, they won’t be nearly as impactful. In a channel that values conversation, true passion is obvious, and lack thereof makes you come off disingenuous and uninteresting.
Plan serendipity: Some of the best connections I’ve made have been because of another interest. It’s this serendipity that allows you to discover mutually beneficial relationships. Imagine meeting a future partner or customer at your child’s soccer game or at the dog park. Social media is no different. You may be talking to someone about something else entirely, get to know each other and discover you want to work on something else together. Become open to these encounters — online and offline — and put as much about yourself upfront so that your “loose” connections can get to know you. I’m reading a great book right now, “The Power of Pull” by John Hagel and John Seely Brown lately; it explores the ability to attract and retain the resources you need to solve problems, and doing so “at the edge” of your networks, in places you don’t expect. Serendipity happens, but you do have to plan it.
Help people know you: People you work with (colleagues, customers, partners) will want to see a tasteful glimpse into who you are and what moves you. It will help them get to know you, and tidbits they share will help you get to know them. If you have multiple interests, great! Talk about them. Let others see what a multidimensional person you are. After all a future client may share your interest for knitting.
The logistics: Finally, do you really want to upkeep all these accounts? Personally, I don’t have the time or brain capacity to remember to update all these places. The more you fracture your presence, the less meaningful each presence in each account will be, because there’s just not enough time. Would you rather do one thing well or many things “half-ass”?
“Oh but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal in a professional setting,” you may say. This is where balance comes in, I’d say. If you are trying to build a professional career, you probably should mind your tweets in the first place, no matter what account you are posting to. Everything you tweet and blog will get archived and indexed by Google anyway (and also everything said about you, for that matter) — so you should probably get into the habit of not tweeting every random thing that comes into your head (and please never tweet that you are going to the bathroom!). At the same time, you do want to add personal views and details, and share what you are doing — as long as it’s tasteful, relevant and passes the “New York Times front page” test. Think about it this way… Before social media, you engaged in small talk to get to know the people you are doing business with anyway. You were sharing some personal detail, adding personal commentary, without oversharing. Do the same thing in social media.
You can still send different messages to different groups of people, by platform. For example, my Facebook is for friends only — or at least people I know personally. My Twitter is wide-open and can be found by anyone. I share there more often, keeping it a mixture of personal and professional, always keeping in mind that any of it can be Googled. In Google+, you can share to discreet groups of friends. If you want to vary your content, I’d recommend doing it across networks vs. across several profiles in one network.